Maria Sharapova announced she will join the NBC Olympics team as a broadcasting correspondent when the world descends on her hometown of Sochi for the Winter Games in February. Sharapova, a four-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic silver medalist, was born in Siberia, but grew up in Sochi until her family decided to move to the United States for tennis.
"I’m thrilled to be joining the NBC family for this year’s Olympic Games in my hometown of Sochi," Sharapova told E!. "The Olympic experience is unlike anything else, and as a past Olympian it means even more to me for the Games to be hosted in such a remarkable place. Sochi has such a rich history and culture, and I’m excited that it will now hold a place in so many athletes' hearts from all over the world."
The Winter Games begin on Feb. 7 and close on Feb. 23, which means Sharapova will take time away from tennis that month. After being forced to shut down her season due to a shoulder injury prior to the U.S. Open this year, Sharapova's scheduled to begin her 2014 season at the Brisbane International before the Australian Open.
She is also confirmed for the Open GDF Suez Paris Indoors, which begin on Jan. 27 and end on Feb. 2. Her Olympic duties will rule her out of the WTA tour's swing through the Middle East as well as the first round of Fed Cup, all of which take place that month.
So what can Sharapova -- or Sochi-pova, as the case may be -- add to NBC's Olympic coverage? Well, in case NBC needs some help brainstorming, here are four things we want to see during Maria's gig as a correspondent:
• Fashion commentator for the opening, closing and anything-in-between ceremonies: She's a sharp critic. You're not getting away with anything this time, Azerbaijan.
• Figure skating correspondent: Reporting from figure skating's "Kiss & Cry" area. That's foreign territory to a tennis player, unless you count Grand Slam trophy ceremonies.
• Heavy promotional work: Look, I love Mary Carillo, but NBC should send Sharapova around Sochi to engage in some wacky hijinks. In fact, pair them up and give them a key to the city. • The Maria and Nastia Show: Sharapova is buddies with gold medal winning gymnast Nastia Liukin, who will also be in Sochi as a correspondent for NBC. Give the two a nightly talk show.